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Washington offers unemployment benefits to federal employees during shutdown

Governor Jay Inslee announced the state will expand unemployment benefits to include federal workers who have been working without pay since the government shutdown began.

Washington state will offer unemployment benefits to federal employees like Coast Guardsmen, FBI agents and Border Patrol workers who are required to be on the job without pay during the partial federal government shutdown.

On Friday, President Trump announced an agreement with congressional leaders that would at least temporarily end the shutdown. The Senate was set to approve the deal and the House was expected to follow later in the day.  

Gov. Jay Inslee made the announcement Thursday, saying Washington would join states like California, Colorado, New Mexico and Vermont in offering such relief to federal employees.

Inslee, a likely Democratic presidential candidate, said about 8,000 people deemed essential federal workers in Washington would be affected. Since the shutdown began more than a month ago, only the roughly 8,000 workers who were furloughed and not working were eligible to receive state unemployment insurance benefits.

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"It is not a permanent or total solution for these families,' Inslee said, adding the shutdown has "put them in extreme financial risk."

The partial government shutdown is a fight over President Donald Trump's demand to build a wall along the Mexican border.

Authorities say the workers would be required to pay back state benefits once they receive back pay when the shutdown ends.

Inslee said Washington has been working with private employers and entities to mitigate the standoff's effect on federal employees. For example, he said utilities were offering flexible payment plans, and some hospital organizations were suspending collection activities and offering grace periods for bills.

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